Ray Ireland was born and raised in the country around Seneca and Joplin Missouri. He always had an interest in ambulances and wanted to drive one when he grew old enough. When he was about 15 years old he got a ride to Joplin, Mo. and walked to the Thornhill-Dillion Funeral Home. Mr. Thornhill liked to tell about the day that Ray came into his office and introduced himself. He said Ray didn’t ask for a job, he just said, “Mr. Thornhill, I’ve come to work for you!! “ He ask Ray what he thought he could do at the funeral home and Ray said he could cut the lawn and sweep the walks and wash the cars.

Mr. Thornhill was impressed with this enterprising young man and put him to work. His years there were educational and convinced Ray that the funeral business was where he had a future. They taught him to drive when he turned 16 and let him drive the flower car to the cemetery. Mr. Cooper was a Funeral Director from Miami, Oklahoma and a good friend of Mr. Thornhill’s. He was impressed with Ray, who was quickly nicknamed, Hickory, because he came from the sticks around Seneca.!! Mr. Cooper offered him a job at his funeral home in Miami and a place to live in an apartment.

Ray earned his GED with the help of the Coopers who more or less treated him like one of the family. He worked for Mr. Cooper for about a year and was taken into the Army and shipped overseas within 8 weeks of his induction to serve three years in Italy, France and Germany during World War ll. In 1944 he came back to the Cooper Funeral Home and they helped him go to the Dallas Institute of Mortuary Science. He graduated and continued to work at Coopers until 1951 when he married Mary, a Miami girl. They moved to McAlester,Okla. where he worked for the Chaney Funeral Home. After about a year they moved to Aurora, Mo. and worked for the Marsh Funeral Home until 1956. They moved to the Brim-Daniel Funeral Home and lived at their funeral home in Walnut Grove, Mo.

In 1961 they moved to Nevada, Missouri in order to live away from the funeral home as they had three little girls and this was too confining for the children. Ray went to work for the Ferry Funeral Home and worked there for 21 years until his death in 1982 at the age of 56. Ray and Mary enjoyed their years in Nevada and it was here that their only son was born, John Matthew Ireland. John was around six years old when Ray began to take him on calls with him.